This isn’t the greatest season in LSU history. Not yet at least.
Joe Burrow is the greatest to ever wear the uniform, the 2019 offense is statistically the most efficient offense in SEC history, and as much as the defense has been criticized, this 2019 unit hasn’t even given up the most points per game in the last five years by an LSU team. So what if it’s the second most an LSU defense has given up with 22.1 points allowed per contest? It’s still not a world-ending, sky-is-falling matter that some in the national media would allow you to believe. When you take that into account and also consider LSU has scored more points in SEC contests than any other conference squad has in a full-length season, this Tiger team is undeniable by all accounts.
Having said all of that, if you compare these 12 games to every other regular season in LSU history, I still have to give the nod to 2011.
And that’s in no way a knock to the 2019 Tigers. But we’re always so quick to use the phrase, “greatest of all time” without fully remembering what we’re comparing it to.
Take a short trip down memory lane.
In 2011, LSU opened the season with a 40-27 win against a Top 5 Oregon team in Dallas. Oregon went on to win 11 games, including the Rose Bowl. That win blasted Tyrann Mathieu into his Heisman campaign, as Mathieu forced a fumble on a punt and returned it himself for the Tigers first points of the game.
Three weeks later the Tigers went to West Virginia and beat the Mountaineers 47-21 in their house. That West Virginia team, by the way, recorded a 10-3 season and defeated Clemson in the Orange Bowl, 70-33. Mathieu once again created havoc in with a memorable interception deep in West Virginia territory.
A game that’s often not talked about in that 2011 season is the 45-10 win against Auburn. That’s when I knew this team was all-time special. LSU beat an 8-5 Auburn with Mathieu, running back Spencer Ware and cornerback Tharold Simon all unavailable due to suspensions. It clearly didn’t matter.
Two weeks later LSU beat Alabama, the eventual national champion, 9-6 in Tuscaloosa before finishing the season with a 41-17 win against a Top 5 Arkansas team that went on to win the Sugar Bowl. So to recap the Tigers beat the national champs, Sugar Bowl champs, Rose Bowl champs and Orange Bowl champs within a 12-game stretch. It was undeniably one of the greatest runs of all time by an college football team.
And in that run, the Tigers allowed 10.6 points per game while scoring 38.2. They averaged 202 rushing yards per contest, so that team was much more than just a dominant defense.
Compare those 12 games to any other regular season, and it’s simply hard for me to take any résumé over that one. The Tigers, as you know, went on to beat Georgia 42-10 in the 2011 SEC Championship Game. Mathieu showed out in that one too, by the way, and should have undeniably finished higher than fifth in the Heisman voting. But it feels like the country didn’t start caring about playmaking defenders until Ohio State’s Chase Young came around this season. But I digress…
The stage is set. This 2019 team can top that 2011 team with a win Saturday. Beating Georgia would give the Tigers five wins over Top 10 teams in the regular season, and before anyone knocks the win against Texas, that was when the Longhorns believed they were a Top 5 team and didn’t have the plethora of injuries they went on to endure.
If LSU is able to defeat a Georgia team that sort of mirrors that 2011 LSU squad with its intimidating run game (200 rushing yards per contest) and stingy defense (10.4 points allowed per contest), this Tiger team will plant a flag firmly as the greatest team in school history. After all, in a lot of ways, this game symbolizes old vs. new.
But until that final horn Saturday, out of respect, I have to give the nod to that incredible 2011 squad.